GER has supporters as far flung as the Grampians in western Victoria and the Atherton tableland in far north Queensland. Just north of the New South Wales – Queensland border is one of GER’s newer partnerships, Hinterland Bush Links (HBL).
Formed in 2011, HBL is hosted by Barung Landcare Association, a not-for-profit organisation that has assisted landholders with bush regeneration projects around the Blackall Range for the past 25 years. With funding from Sunshine Coast Council, Barung Landcare has extended its reach into other parts of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland through its Hinterland Bush Links project.
Rich in native plants and animals, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland has a diverse landscape, high rainfall and fertile soils. It is home to 84 different types of native ecosystem with more than 1,600 native plant species and 700 native animal species. It’s a national biodiversity ‘hotspot’.
Despite an amazing variety of plants and animals, less than 42% of the area’s original bushland remains as a result of clearing for agriculture and urban development. Invasion of noxious weeds and feral animals has adversely impacted the area’s biodiversity values. Currently 91 of its plant species and 68 animal species are listed as Endangered, Vulnerable or Rare in Queensland. Protecting these threatened species and their habitat is the focus of the HBL project.
“After completing flora and fauna surveys six years ago, we realised that restoring habitat to connect the remaining blocks of bush on private land to protected areas such as Conondale and Maleny National Parks would enhance the survival of our local wildlife,” says Susie Duncan, HBL Coordinator.
“That was the beginning of Hinterland Bush Links which now has a vision for connecting habitat across the entire hinterland of the Sunshine Coast from Caboolture to Gympie,” she says.
“The Sunshine Coast Hinterland is a critical link in the Great Eastern Ranges providing a super-highway for migratory birds such as the Rainbow Bee-eater and many cuckoos and honeyeater birds which breed in Victoria in the summer and travel to Queensland and Asia in the winter.
“Connecting habitat will also facilitate the movement of many other local species around the region in search of seasonal fruit and blossoms on native trees,” she says.
HBL sees protecting bush on private land as a vital ingredient for achieving connectivity in the landscape and offers support to landholders including direct advice, assistance with seeking funding for restoration works and coordination of voluntary community labour for some works. Roving Restorers has been a particularly successful HBL program. It connects volunteers with landholders who need a hand with weeding or planting, and creating opportunities for helpers to learn restoration skills, see some beautiful properties and enjoy a friendly social gathering while working towards connecting habitat.
“Some 20-30 volunteers come out to assist with this work each fortnight under the Roving Restorers program, which gives a great boost to landholders,” Susie says. ” And, an extension of this work is the creation of Bush Link clusters of neighbouring landholders who work collaboratively on their properties, making restoration work more sustainable. Those who help with all this work share a common aspiration to create a healthy landscape across this region so that native plants and animals flourish,” she says.
“We also have several collaborative wildlife corridor projects underway. The Cambroon Wildlife Corridor in the Mary Valley , for example, involves community volunteers and many landholders in undertaking weed management and revegetation along several tributaries to the Mary River. The aim is to connect Maleny National Park and fragmented vegetation on the Blackall Range with more extensive tracts of forest in the Conondale National Park,” she says.
The next exciting project for HBL is piloting a Subtropical Forests Ecology Course this spring. The multi-day field-based learning experience will bring together top forest ecology experts and those wanting to learn and be inspired.
“People who live here love this landscape, but when we get out the maps there is a real appreciation that we are contributing to something bigger and more valuable, which is the whole of the Great Eastern Ranges corridor,” Susie says.